In France, 64% of people aged 65 and over own a car. Although they are regularly singled out for criticism, senior citizens are only responsible for fatal accidents in less than 10% of cases.
Are senior citizens really that dangerous? The statistics prove otherwise. In 2020, according to figures from the National Interministerial Road Safety Observatory (ONISR), 643 senior citizens lost their lives on the tricolour roads, i.e. 25% of all road deaths, even though they represent only 19% of the population. On the other hand, 65-74 year olds are only declared to be responsible for a fatal accident in less than 10% of cases, compared with 19.2% of 18-24 year olds.
Although most European countries have had a licence valid for an unlimited period of time since 2013, several of them make its extension conditional on medical examinations. This is the case in Italy and Portugal from the age of 50, and in Greece from the age of 65. Others are even stricter, such as Hungary, which requires a regular medical examination from the age of 40. According to an OpinionWay study for Dekra, 79% of French people are in favour of allowing senior citizens to assess their driving ability with a professional and 75% are in favour of the introduction of a compulsory and renewable medical examination to validate driving ability.
With age, physiological changes occur: a decrease in acuity and visual field and a decline in vision, an alteration in the perception of luminosity, contrasts and colours and a decrease in resistance to glare The recovery time for a dazzled eye increases with age. Where it takes 10 seconds at age 25, it can take up to 2 minutes for people over 40. Weakening of the quality of hearing: discerning sounds and locating their origin is more difficult, reflexes are reduced and it is difficult to concentrate, as well as discomfort for certain movements.
These changes, which mainly affect vision, hearing and motor skills, progressively alter driving ability.
The ageing of the population has increased the number of older drivers. With age, driving a vehicle can be complex and even dangerous. A senior citizen can, in fact, be considered a risk profile. Fortunately, electronic driving aids for the elderly have been developed in recent years.
Choosing the right vehicle is important and allows you to feel more comfortable on the road.
driving a car with large glass surfaces improves the field of vision;
- an additional rear view mirror, rear view (reversing camera), side view and blind spot devices can facilitate rear-end checks by reducing blind spots in case of neck stiffness;
- opting for an automatic gearbox makes driving easier;
Whether they are called ABS, ESP or AFU, these devices, which have gradually appeared in vehicles in recent years, are real driving aids for senior citizens:
ABS (Antilock Brake System): prevents the wheels from locking in the event of emergency braking. Without shortening the braking distance.
Power steering: present on many models, whether they are city cars, saloons or others.
Hill start assist: a nightmare for novice drivers, this manoeuvre can also be complicated for a senior citizen. The purpose of this driving aid is to prevent the car from rolling backwards after stopping on a hill by maintaining pressure on the brakes as long as the vehicle is not in motion.
Parking assistance: a reduced field of vision can lead to numerous minor collisions, which can cost a lot in fines and deductibles. This is why this driving aid is ideal for senior citizens. Depending on the version, this device can range from sensors that detect obstacles and send out a signal, to the automatic system that analyses free spaces and turns the steering wheel to park the car.
The drowsiness alert: this warns the senior citizen when he or she deviates from his or her trajectory or jerks the steering wheel.
Many training centres and driving schools offer refresher courses for senior drivers. These programmes, which aim to make senior citizens aware of the problems associated with their age, offer
A refresher course on the Highway Code, a discussion on the effects of ageing on driving, reaction time assessments, vision tests and a presentation of driving aids.
These refresher courses for seniors are very successful in France.
Adapting your driving
While driving is still possible under certain conditions, it is important to change your habits to minimise the risks:
Adapting one’s schedule: avoiding rush hour, not driving at night or between 1pm and 3pm (when the risk of drowsiness is highest),
Adapt your routes: do not take the road during major departures, if the weather conditions are unfavourable, favour wide and clear roads and take real breaks regularly,
Take care of your health and abilities by regularly consulting your GP, ophthalmologist, ENT specialist, etc., but also by being clear-headed if a series of driving incidents occur, and by maintaining regular physical activity,
In spite of everything, keep up the habit of driving, by varying your routes: nothing is more dangerous than getting behind the wheel when you are “rusty”!
While there is no problem in making short regular trips alone, although the presence of another person is also recommended, it is not advisable to go far without a companion. Indeed, while reflexes generally become less good as time goes by, the presence of someone else considerably reduces the risk of an accident. Whether it is one of your children or grandchildren or a professional, they can warn you if you have not seen a danger. In addition, you can also equip yourself with a GPS, which will guide you efficiently and prevent you from getting lost, thus allowing you to better concentrate on your driving. Finally, to reduce the risks, try to travel at the quietest times, and don’t leave at night.
Whether you are travelling for a short or long distance, always make sure you are in a comfortable driving position to reduce back and neck pain. If you wish, there are also a number of accessories designed specifically to improve driver comfort, such as travel cushions, grab handles and seatbelt pullers. Of course, remember to take regular breaks and keep well hydrated during your journey. If possible, avoid travelling when it is too hot, and make sure the air conditioning in your vehicle is working properly. You may also want to consider using a misting device, which is particularly useful in summer.
Being able to travel by car is one thing, but what if you have difficulty walking once you get out of the car? It is possible to apply for a CMI (mobility and inclusion card) for parking, which is granted without age conditions to people who have major difficulties in getting around.
Holding a CMI allows you to use the spaces reserved for disabled people. These reserved spaces are conveniently located in car parks and thus make it possible to limit the movement of the person parked there as much as possible.
Many countries have adopted measures to signal senior citizens on the road.
In France, this is not the case. However, an association called “signal senior” has just proposed a sticker called “disque S” for people over 60. If you feel less comfortable on the road and want to report this to protect yourself from other motorists, simply affix the “S disc” to the back of your vehicle.
The “S” prevention disc is sold by the Signal senior association for €4. It’s easy to get one! You just have to order it online on the association’s page. After validation of the payment, it will be sent to you by mail. You can also pay by cheque!
For a safe journey by car, adopt the S disc reflex!
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